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‘Life-changing impacts’: Nation’s lawmakers urged to change age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14

The group is set to deliver its findings during the meeting on Monday.

While NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman is yet to take a stance on the issue, Victorian Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said the over-representation of Indigenous minors in the justice system was unacceptable.

Illustration: Dionne Gain

Illustration: Dionne GainCredit:

“Reducing those rates is now a key priority of the national cabinet,” she said. “The government has committed to implementing the outcomes from the ongoing national review of the age of criminal responsibility currently being led through the Council of Attorneys-General.”

Victorian Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14 was potentially risky, as there had been instances where 13-year-olds had committed horrific crimes.

“I’d be very careful before we look at raising the age of criminal responsibility across the board,” Mr O’Brien said. “To say, absolutely black and white, that no child under the age of 14 could ever, ever commit a crime, I think that is potentially asking for trouble.”

As a result of the meeting, the hashtag #RaiseTheAge has trended across social media, with prominent legal and political figures supporting the push.

Sydney barrister Arthur Moses, SC, the former president of the Law Council of Australia and the NSW Bar Association, said the country should be judged harshly if reform is not implemented.

“The state and territory attorneys-general need to have the courage to do what they know is right,” he said. “Australians are decent and intelligent – they will support this law reform.

“A country is judged based on how it treats its most vulnerable including our children.”

Studies show that children under 14 who enter the justice system are more likely to be suffering from underlying trauma, have an undiagnosed disability and come from poorer families.

Almost 70 per cent of 10-year-olds in detention had also received child protection services, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data shows.

While NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman is yet to take a stance on the issue, Victorian Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said the over-representation of Indigenous minors in the justice system was unacceptable.

While NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman is yet to take a stance on the issue, Victorian Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said the over-representation of Indigenous minors in the justice system was unacceptable. Credit:Kate Geraghty

Former Children’s Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission Megan Mitchell said imprisoning young children was not an effective deterrent.

“It increases the likelihood of recidivism and has severe, life-changing impacts on children’s health, development, wellbeing and opportunities,” she said. “Instead, we need to strengthen alternative interventions and diversionary programs, which are proven to be more effective forms of rehabilitation.”

with Laura Chung and Sumeyya Ilanbey

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